De-Radicalizing From QAnon Isn't Easy

Some experts say U.S. mental health community is woefully unprepared to help conspiracy cult followers break free.

Video Transcript

SASHA INGBER: It was easy enough to fall for QAnon in 2020. Political leaders from former President Trump on down gave a gloss of credibility, easy to get into, much harder to get out of.

LEILA HAY: I don't want people to think I was stupid.

SASHA INGBER: 19-year-old, Layla Hay says she was scared of being judged for believing the lies, which start with liberal Satan worshipping pedophiles running the world and end with a fantasy that Trump would swoop in to save the day and stay in power. So even when she realized QAnon had isolated her from family and friends she hesitated to get help.

LEILA HAY: I had an account on Twitter that was only focused QAnon content. So I, sort of, logged out of it. I didn't go on it anymore.

SASHA INGBER: Hay also turned to online support groups like ReQovery and QAnonCasualties, where she met moderator Jitarth Jadeja, a former believer himself. Jadeja says membership has doubled since the January 6th insurrection, but he questions whether his advice is enough.

JITARTH JADEJA: I don't know what to say. I never know what to say. My dad is still a cultist. I can't convince him.

SASHA INGBER: There aren't many deradicalization experts in the world, even in the United States. And one says self deradicalization can be risky.

DANIEL KOEHLER: Let me be clear leaving one your own is better than not leaving at all, but there are always the risks of not fully understanding what has happened. And we know of many cases, people who are self deradicalized run the risk of radicalizing again into a different group.

SASHA INGBER: Daniel Kohler also says the US mental health community is woefully unprepared.

DANIEL KOEHLER: Unfortunately, the United States is about 30 to 40 years behind most European countries when it comes to building radicalization programs or even the most basic support structures.

SASHA INGBER: Steven Hassan, an ex-cult member of the Unification Church , now a cult expert, agrees.

STEVEN HASSAN: There's no systematic training programs when people are getting trained to be a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a counselor for how to work with this population.

SASHA INGBER: The American Psychiatric Association confirms to Newsy it has no such program, but Hassan says each cult member needs a customized plan. And family members need support in reconnecting with loved ones who were cut off by QAnon.

STEVEN HASSAN: We need to really develop a large scale education program. First with family members and friends because they are the first line. It's like I miss you. Where have you been?

SASHA INGBER: The conspiracy theory suffered a serious blow when Donald Trump left office, but QAnon experts say not enough people are disavowing the cult. For Leila Hay, after weeks of inner reflection she decided to reach out.

LEILA HAY: I started getting counseling, which was helpful. And also seeing my family more, talking to them more was really helpful to bringing myself to reality.

SASHA INGBER: Experts warn the movement will adapt and grow. That means many people will need to find a way back to reality for a long time to come. From Washington, Sasha Ingber, Newsy.